Stranded by a blizzard at her isolated cabin, Meg Harris, an escapee from a failed marriage into the remote wilderness, finds herself in a desperate and terrifying situation when two strangers arrive.
As night approaches, a major blizzard has cut off road access to Meg Harris’s isolated wilderness home, Three Deer Point. She is alone with her young friend Adjidamo, preparing for Christmas, when a knock suddenly echoes through the house. She finds two strange men at her front door, one of them bleeding. Against her better judgment, she lets them in. At that moment, the power goes out, plunging the group into total darkness and severing all phone links to the outside world. So begin a terrifying twenty-four hours that have Meg summoning up a courage she didn’t know she had to get herself and Adjidamo out alive.
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R.J. Harlick’s love for Canada’s untamed wilds is the inspiration for the Meg Harris mystery series. The fourth in the series, Arctic Blue Death, was short-listed for the Arthur Ellis Award for best crime novel. R.J. Harlick lives in Ottawa.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
I was sitting in the kitchen agonizing over my Christmas grocery list, when I heard the noise. It wasn’t a knock or even a tap. More like a thud, from the front of the house. But since a blizzard had been howling all day I ignored it. I assumed it was a branch the wind had broken free, given the force with which it was lashing snow against the windows. With only four more days until the big day, I would have to drive into Somerset tomorrow or the next day at the latest to ensure I could get everything Eric wanted for our first family Christmas, like the three dozen fresh oysters he wanted to serve as the starter to the moose stew he was preparing for Christmas Eve and the two jars of Jocelyn’s homemade aged mincemeat liberally doused with cognac that was only available at her specialty store. Though I was looking forward to seeing my sister, Jean, her husband and their two daughters and Eric’s daughter, Teht’aa, I couldn’t understand why my husband wanted to share our second Christmas as a married couple with all of them, when we could have a perfectly wonderful time with just the two of us. Mind you, given the way he’d slammed the door on me when he’d left last week for Regina, maybe Christmas wouldn’t be happening. The thud sounded again. This time with more force. Since the likelihood of a branch falling in the same place twice was zero, I made my way down the hall to the front door, wondering what kind of an idiot would be out in such a storm. It couldn’t be Pierre delivering the farm fresh turkey I’d ordered. He wasn’t supposed to drop it off until the 23rd, the day Eric was scheduled to return. Besides he would take it to the back door. Nor could it be Ajidamo. Though the boy was outside, he was at the back getting firewood from the woodshed. There was no need for him to trudge through the deep drifts to the front. He would just take the logs to the back porch to replenish the dwindling supply. I could make out a shadow through the shears covering the narrow window beside the door, but not much else. Living in such an isolated location with only kilometers of empty forest between my closest neighbour and me, I tended to be wary about opening the door without knowing who it could be, especially when I was alone. Before Eric and I were married I’d become used to living by myself in the remote wilderness of Three Deer Point with my only company, Sergei, my wimpy standard poodle. But he was hardly what one would call a guard dog, though he did have a ferocious bark on him. Sadly he’d passed on and now my current guard dog was Miss Molly, another standard, who at ten weeks old wouldn’t scare anyone away. Since it was a winding kilometre and a half drive up the Three Deer Point road to my rambling Victorian cottage, most people called to ensure someone was home before making the trip. Today with all the snow that had fallen, it would be nearly impossible without getting stuck. Unless this person had come by snowmobile. But a skidoo wasn’t exactly quiet and I hadn’t heard any engine roar, even if the wind was doing it’s best to drown out all other sounds. “Who’s there,” I called out. “Open this goddamn door!” shouted a male voice, followed by another thump against the heavy oak. Forget it. No way was I going to open it with that tone of voice, especially a voice I didn’t recognize. I backed away, almost tripping over Miss Molly. Recently separated from her mother, she followed my every step. I lifted her up and gave her a kiss on the top of her soft furry head by way of an apology. She gave me a big lick on the cheek along with a nip from her sharp puppy teeth. She hadn’t yet sorted out the distinction between licks and nips. A shudder went through the house as another blast of wind pummeled it. “Madame, please let us in. We need help.” That was better. At least he was being polite. I decided to get the portable phone from the living room, thinking it might be a good idea to have it handy, just in case. But the minute I reached for the receiver I was plunged into the semi-twilight of the storm. The hall light had gone out along with the lights in the living room. Damn. The power was out. Given the velocity of the wind, I’d been expecting it to happen all day. However, now was not exactly a convenient time. Hoping it was a momentary flicker, I waited for the lights to return. They didn’t. This meant the phone wouldn’t work. And with no cell coverage in the area, I couldn’t use Eric’s spare cell either. “Open up, madame. My friend’s badly hurt.” Another round of heavy thumping against the door. I didn’t like the feel of this. It made no sense that these men would be at my place in such weather. Still…perhaps there had been an accident. I hated to open the door without some form of protection. But Eric’s hunting rifles were locked up and the key was likely on his key chain with him. Besides I didn’t have the foggiest idea on how to use one. But if someone really was hurt… I moved the sheers aside and found myself staring into a pair of startling amber eyes framed by a swirl of tattoos, which gyrated up over his forehead and onto his bullet head. I let the curtain fall back into place. He banged on the window. “Please, madame, my friend might die.” No way I was going to let this guy in. “I can’t help you. There’s a Health Centre on the Reserve. Go there.” “We can’t go anywhere in this shit. Our car’s stuck. You have to let us in. It’s fucking cold out here.” “Miss Aggie, that you?” came another much weaker voice. “It’s Willie’s boy.” Miss Aggie. Did he mean my Great-aunt Agatha? I inched the curtain aside just a crack. Tattoo head had moved away from the window giving me a clear view of another man, half-standing, half-leaning against the porch railing. Snow swirled around him, hiding his face for the moment. When it cleared, his face was equally unfamiliar, though it bore the familiar bronze tinge of my husband’s skin and many of my friends, except in his case it bore the unhealthy yellowish pallor of more time spend indoors than outside. His wool coat was crusted with snow, so too the tuque pulled down over his forehead and ears. His eyes were closed as if in sleep, until they winced in pain. Then I noticed the snow turning red where his hand pressed against his side. Damn. “How do you know my aunt?” “My dad used to do odd jobs for her.” “But she’s been dead almost fifteen years.” “Yeah, well my dad died about that long ago.” “You from the rez?” “Yeah.” “I don’t think I’ve seen you around.” “Yeah, well…I haven’t live there in a while.” “What did you say your name was?” “Ah…Larry. Look I’m not feeling so good. Can you let us in?” I hated to turn away someone from the reserve, particularly someone in trouble. I knew Eric wouldn’t want me to either. “What’s your last name?” “Whiteduck.” “Are you related to Tommy?” “You talkin’ about Marie’s kid? Him and me were in the same class at school.” He did look to be about the same age as Tommy, in his early thirties. And he did know that Tommy was Marie’s son. I felt a pang at the thought of Marie. She’d been a valued friend when I first moved into Three Deer Point and was having difficulties adjusting to the disparities in my life. Even though it was seven years since her tragic death, I still missed her. Wanting to believe him, I opened the door.
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